My latest: On Morocco’s “New” Cabinet

The following is an excerpt for my latest piece on Jadaliyya, contextualizing the recent cabinet changes in Morocco and the political implications behind it:

The fluidity through which parties float from the coalition to the opposition and from the opposition to the coalition reveals more than just the pursuit of political interests (i.e., Istiqlal wanting to disassociate itself from the price hikes on food and fuel). This fluid movement practically renders the parliamentary election process in Morocco futile. Even if the parliamentary elections were intended to feed a narrative of a liberalizing political system, the shifting movements of political parties reverses any changes brought about by an electoral process. Moreover, the inability of parties to tow a consistent political line places more reliance on the monarchy as an institution, especially when it constantly intervenes in inter-party disputes at the expense of policy-making. The palace (the king and his shadow cabinet) is increasingly viewed as a stable mediating actor, rather than its true nature as an institution that operates with unchecked powers and impunity. It is through this strategy of capitalizing from the partisan squabbles among political parties that the monarchy has anchored itself in Morocco’s political landscape as a “uniting” and seemingly “necessary” actor.

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Paying for the sins of others – #FreeAliAnouzla

[I wrote the following article for Mamfakinch, click here for the full post.]

The scenario borders sheer absurdity. Ali Anouzla, a Moroccan editor and journalist, whose work is most often featured on the online Moroccan news publication, Lakome, was arrested for reporting on a video that the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) released. The AQIM video targeted King Mohammed VI as leading a kingdom of “corruption” and “despotism.” Moreover, the video calls on Moroccans to wage a violent resistance to the monarchy’s rule. The video itself, with its context, origins, objectives, and timing, certainly merits coverage. And as Lakome stands as the most consistent source of information (they were the site that originally broke the story of #DanielGate: the royal pardon of the convicted Spanish pedophile), Lakome‘s coverage of this video breaks no norms. Contrary to reports circulating online, Lakome did not post the video, but rather published a screenshot along with a synopsis of its contents.

Three days after Lakome covered the video, news spread across social media that Ali Anouzla was interrogated, then arrested in response to Lakome‘s coverage of AQIM’s video. Moroccan site Yabiladi was one of the first to break the news based on confirmed information. Within hours, a #FreeAliAnouzla campaign was in full force, including the launch of a petition calling for his release. There are several factors to consider in light of this blatant violation of a basic journalistic freedom: the singling out of Ali Anouzla, an unchanged precedent of the regime’s oppression of online and independent media, and the outward projection of the Makhzen’s fragility and its insecurities.

Those who of us who first heard of Ali Anouzla’s arrest were dismayed but not surprised. Ali Anouzla has long been a torchbearer with regard to maintaining a critical perspective toward the Moroccan regime in its entirety–including the king. His articles carried a consistent bite that delivered incisive commentary that inspired, pushed boundaries, and set precedents. It was only this past June that Anouzla wrote a damning article that pointed out the king’s consistent absence from Morocco for his own personal vacations and the political implications behind those extended periods of absences. Anouzla also co-authored a pertinent piece with Aboubakr Jamaï, who heads the French version of Lakome, on how the inherent authoritarian nature of the Moroccan regime is a factor to consider regarding its position toward the Western Sahara. Continue reading

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The history and politics behind Morocco’s “Throne Day”

The following is an excerpt of a must-read piece I had the privilege of translating with my colleague Allison McManus. It delves into the history behind “Throne Day” in Morocco, how its purpose has evolved to serve those in power, and how it culminated to serve a type of nationalism that builds itself upon centralized authoritarianism in Morocco. It sparked my interest in examining how nationalism in Morocco fed off the monarchy as a component inherent to the “Moroccan nation.” More on that soon…

From its recent creation in 1933, Coronation Day registered as what historians call the “invention of tradition.” That is to say, it was created to establish a set of rituals in order to create a fictitious continuity with the past and instill standards of behavior upon the population in the name of tradition. The promoters of invented traditions choose references and old symbols to respond to the constraints of their times. Under its current form, Hassan II (1961-1999) created this ritual to affirm the monarchy’s centrality and supremacy. It was thus diverted from its original purpose which the nationalists initially intended it to serve: to symbolize and celebrate the Moroccan nation.

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Filed under monarchy, Morocco, nationalism, politics